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  • The Rector

Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Sermon for the 6th Sunday after Pentecost (Year A) July 12th, 2020

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

One of the silver linings of this pandemic and the last few months of being largely stuck at home, though it’s a tough thing to look for a silver lining within given how much many have suffered, is that Shannon and I like many others have devoted more time than we normally would to gardening.

Last year we laid out a small garden frame we found behind the rectory shed, filled it with dirt and compost and planted some beans and carrots, both of us having very little experience growing vegetables before.

Night after night that summer we watered and tended, plucked up weeds, and picked off pests. I remember one evening I went out to water like I had so many times before only to find, to my absolute amazement, that our bean bushes were overladen with beans. Our work had paid dividends and for weeks we enjoyed fresh produce from the garden.

This year we have invested time and money into building three raised beds and turning last year’s garden into a garlic bed. Thinking we would get the drop on the season we started everything inside about a month too early which worked wonderfully until we had to move the plants outside, at which point many of them withered and died, those that remained are not nearly as hearty as those planted as seed.

Nevertheless, God is good, and the gardens are beginning to show some of their fruit.

Contrast these gardens with the flower bed that runs alongside the rectory property and there you will find three horrifically overgrown lilacs, beautifully thick grass, and a handful of flowers that are struggling to come up amidst the weeds.

The lesson is clear, and one that we all know if we have ever done any serious gardening before – gardens need our attention. When we neglect them, they fall to disarray, weeds overtake them, and we are left with a great mess. When we care for them – even just regular watering and weeding, we receive back more than we put in.

But that is about gardens – dirt, and worms, and manure, and plants.

What about us? What about you and me?

In general the same principle still applies, doesn’t it? – if we put work into something, we tend to get something back. Paint a room? It looks nicer. Eat right and go for a walk? Maybe your waistline will slim down a bit, maybe your Doctor will give you a thumbs up the next time they check your cholesterol.

In general we get back what we put in, or maybe a bit more, when we invest in ourselves and the things around us.

But that’s not the message of the Gospel today, and that isn’t why Jesus uses the well-known parable of the sower and the seeds.

When Jesus taught his disciples, those closest to him, he often taught clearly and directly but to crowds he began to teach in parables, images he uses to explain the kingdom of God to those who wanted to listen. He told his disciples that he did this because they had been permitted to know the Kingdom of God, but it had not yet been granted to others.

Speaking in parables makes it so that the listener must think about the story – how does the sower and the seed relate to our faith, our relationship with God? Those who desired to go deeper, to grow in that relationship with God would seek to understand; those who didn’t would simply dismiss Jesus’ teaching as non-sense.

And in the parable he uses today he makes a similar kind of distinction. He says that the Kingdom is like someone spreading seed – in two instances it falls where it cannot survive, and in the final instance, when the sower spreads the seed in good soil, it grows.

When he explains the parable he says the seed is like the Word of God’s Kingdom – and the hard ground and thorny ground are like those who receive it but have neither the depth of soil for the word to take root, nor the focus and freedom from worldly concerns to give it room to grow.

Those thorns can be all the things in this life that distract us – family, work, pleasure, money, boredom. They can be things that overwhelm us, those difficult moments in our lives that try and rob us of joy and hope, sickness, suffering, pride, or anger.

The message is clear – where the seed, God’s word, hope, joy, love – find good soil they give back. But not just give back like when we eat better, we don’t just get back what is put in, we get back 100 times what is planted. An enormous abundance such that we cannot imagine.

In the Epistle today, Paul, writing to the house churches in Rome says a similar thing, that we have a choice over how we live, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

It is living according to the Spirit – making sure we are always mindful of the state of that garden within us and being open the abundance God wishes to give us.

When God works, God works abundantly. This is the message of the Psalm today.

When God gives, God gives more than we could have ever asked or imagined.

Yet much like the fruit of our gardens that soil must be ready.

In the Spring next year I’ll amend the soil of my garden – see what it needs after a long winter for plants to flourish and give it that.

The same is true of the garden of our hearts. This is the underlying message of the Gospel today.

It is not enough for God to sow the seed in our hearts because that seed could still fall on ground unready to receive it. Genesis says that God formed humans out of the dust, the very soil and dirt of the earth, by breathing life into it.

This same earth must be ready to receive the seed so that his Word and his Life can find a home within us.

Like the garden in our yard, that garden of hearts sometimes needs amending.

Maybe it is rough and needs to be smoothed; maybe we are angry or sour and need more compassion; perhaps our hearts are clinging to a burden or a grudge for which we must forgive someone or seek to be forgiven. Maybe we need to pray more, give more, love more.

The parable of the seed and sower is about the awesome abundance of God – about what amazing things God can do in and through us. But it is also about the state of our spiritual lives right now, at this moment. Are we making ourselves, our hearts and our souls, a place where that abundance of God can be planted and flourish?

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”

#Anglican #Anglicanism #anglicansermon #6thsundayafterpentecost #yearA #afterpentecost #ordinarytimesermons #parableofthesower #parablesofjesus #abundanceofgod

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